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Barcelona 'struggling to afford Roberto De Zerbi buyout clause'

Barcelona 'struggling to afford Roberto De Zerbi buyout clause'
© Reuters
Barcelona reportedly face a losing battle to hire Brighton & Hove Albion's Roberto De Zerbi as their new head coach due to his €15m (£12.9m) release clause.

Barcelona could reportedly struggle to hire Brighton & Hove Albion's Roberto De Zerbi as their new head coach due to their inability to pay his buyout clause.

It has been over a month since current Blaugrana boss Xavi revealed that he intended to leave at the end of the season, announcing his decision after January's 5-3 loss to Villarreal.

The reigning La Liga champions have strung together a pleasing set of results since, taking 13 points from the last 15 on offer in the Spanish top tier and playing out a 1-1 draw with Napoli in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie.

As a result of their turnaround in form, president Joan Laporta and sporting director Deco have both opened the door to Xavi staying on beyond the summer, but the Catalan coach has reiterated that he plans to leave regardless.

Brighton boss De Zerbi - formerly of Shakhtar Donetsk and Sassuolo - is believed to be a top candidate to replace Xavi, having guided the Seagulls to a sixth-placed finish in the 2022-23 Premier League and a place in the Europa League.

Brighton & Hove Albion manager Roberto De Zerbi applauds fans after the match on October 26, 2023© Reuters

The 44-year-old's contract at the Amex Stadium does not expire until the summer of 2026, though, and his terms are also believed to include an exit clause worth €15m (£12.9m).

According to Sport, Barcelona - whose financial concerns have restricted them for a number of years now - are currently in no position to pay the entirety of De Zerbi's option, which Brighton have no intention of negotiating on.

As well as their economic situation, Brighton supposedly believe that paying an eight-figure sum to hire De Zerbi would pile the pressure on his shoulders, a situation which they hope to avoid putting their new head coach in.

Nevertheless, De Zerbi is said to be interested in managing the Spanish champions, and he would prefer a move to Camp Nou over Liverpool, who are set to part ways with Jurgen Klopp once the campaign concludes.

The Reds are prioritising the appointment of Bayer Leverkusen's Xabi Alonso, though, but De Zerbi will apparently still listen to offers from elsewhere if Barcelona are not decisive in their pursuit of his signature.

Barcelona coach Xavi on February 21, 2024© Reuters

Barcelona are expected to ramp up their search for Xavi's successor during the March international break, when Deco is set to interview candidates before Laporta makes a final decision on his next hire.

While De Zerbi is admired in Catalonia, Blaugrana chiefs have supposedly taken concrete steps to hire ex-Germany boss Hansi Flick, without a job since being sacked by the 2014 World Cup winners in September.

A separate report claimed that talks have already been held between Barcelona and Flick, who shares De Zerbi's desire to take charge of Barcelona and would be a less complicated hire than the current Brighton head coach.

The Italian has masterminded 35 wins from 76 games in charge of Brighton, but the Seagulls were condemned to a second successive defeat in all competitions on Saturday, suffering a 3-0 loss away to Fulham.

Meanwhile, Barcelona seek a third straight La Liga win on Sunday night when they travel to San Mames to take on Athletic Bilbao.

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Germany coach Hansi Flick before the match on September 9, 2023
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